Popov demolishes third ‘KrymNash’ myth – that Crimean people freely expressed their will

Moscow propaganda poster plastered all over Crimea before the illegal "referendum" of March 16, 2014.

Moscow propaganda poster plastered all over Crimea before the illegal "referendum" of March 16, 2014.  

2015/08/27 • Analysis & Opinion, Crimea, Russia

Moscow historian Arkady Popov takes up and demolishes the third myth that the Kremlin has promoted as part of its “Crimea is Ours” campaign – the notion that the people of Crimea freely expressed their will regarding the annexation of their land by the Russian Federation.

Putin’s assertion that “the residents of Crimea had the complete right to independently decide the issue of separation from Ukraine is not so,” Popov says. For such a vote to be “legally significant,” a referendum has to meet certain standards: It must correspond to the constitution of the country and be conducted in democratic ways. The Crimean vote was neither.

The Ukrainian constitution does not allow local referenda on separatist demands. Were it to do so, that would open the way for voting not just on ethno-national grounds but down to the city level. And that in turn, Popov continues, would lead to “’self-determination’ chaos” if small areas sought a vote.

Supporters of the Crimean “referendum” point to cases in Switzerland, Great Britain, Canada and Spain, but all of these cases show why what happened in Crimea was not an expression of the popular will in accordance with international law. Votes there were allowed by the governments involved and carried out democratically.

In all four of these cases, both sides respected existing law. But “in less civilized countries where such willingness is not found, the problem of separatism is resolved one way or the other by means of exacerbating hatred and the application of arms, with all the consequences that ensue from that.”

Moreover, Popov continues, Russians are somewhat confused about national self-determination. It refers to the citizens of a state and not “for nations as an ethno-territorial group.” That is acknowledged by Russian experts on this principle of international law, he writes.

That means, the Moscow historian says, that “the subjects of political self-determination can be only the entire nation of the state and not some part of it set apart by ethnic or regional characteristics.” And that in turn means that the entire nation has to agree to what is done or even to the process. If not, not.

What happened in Crimea was something “completely different,” Popov argues. The decisions on the referendum were made by local officials who seized power as a result of the military action of Russia, the referendum itself was shifted and redefined several times, and there was no opportunity for serious debate.

One cannot say, he says, that “the majority of residents of Crimea did not want to join with Russia. What it means is that no one knows how many of them wanted exactly that because the entire process of preparing the referendum, the entire course of the agitation campaign, and the process of counting the voted was completely controlled by supporters of unification.”

One can call what happened in Crimea a referendum, but that doesn’t make it so. When the UN General Assembly voted on the matter, 100 countries said it was not a legitimate referendum. Only 11 did, “including Russia.”

Crimea referendum cartoonEfforts to present an illegal referendum as legitimate and to impose its result as a decision, Popov continues, “in any self-respecting country would be described as criminal, especially if it was used for secession.” Indeed, Russia criminally punishes even the call for secession and not just acts to promote it.

“Apparently, this is the new morality,” Popov says. “All politicians lie but all try to conceal this. But our president lies honestly and openly! And this means that Krymnashism is completely suitable as the nucleus of a unique national ideology.”

That is because “any new ideology, besides new ideas, must offer certain new values, and it is already understood that internationalism and international law are not among them. Instead, what is included is tribal nationalism and the right of the fist,” the Moscow historian points out in conclusion.

“But those values were well-known a thousand years before Putin. But taking delight in one’s own lies – ‘we lie and we are proud of this!’” – is something new. Indeed, it appears that “’Putin’s teaching is all-powerful because it is false.’” That is something that “ought to make an impression” on the West.

Edited by: A. N.

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